When the South Beach Wine & Food Fest kicks off this weekend and Emeril and Bobby and Paula and the Neelys start popping up all over town, I know you’re going to have just one burning question in mind,
“Where the heck am I going to take Anthony Bourdain for dinner that will prove to him I’ve got ‘Natural Born Foodie’ street cred?”
Let’s face it, you need a few places that are interesting, ethnic, and not easily overwhelmed by the thousands of starry-eyed FoodTV fans who will be swarming all over South Beach. You want a casual vibe (because Tony favors jeans) and a menu with a few surprises to keep things interesting between mugs of beer and drunken revelations about what iguana really tastes like…
Indomania (131 26 Street, South Beach): This intimate, family-owned restaurant serves Indonesian cuisine as seen through Dutch eyes. If the promise of such a unique fusion doesn’t immediately impress your guest, the Rijsttafel will. Simply tell your server if you prefer Java or Sumatra and get ready for a dazzling variety of small plates filled with assorted meats (grilled chicken, slow-cooked beef, ginger pork, shrimp and beans), seasoned rice, curried eggs, spicy green beans, and sweet and sour pickles to mix, match, and share. As the air fills with the aromas of curry, tamarind, and lemongrass, you’ll be inspired to share a few of your favorite travel stories that will keep Tony laughing all night long.
Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant (819 Fifth Street, South Beach): Island cuisine in South Florida is a many-splendored thing and this gloriously colorful restaurant captures all of the flavors of Caribbean cooking and serves them with style. While South Beach tends toward slick presentations and over-priced fine dining, the vibe at Tap Tap is decidedly casual, homespun, and haphazard. Haitian folk musician Manno Charlemagne and his band turn up to play on weekends and the service can be as laid back as an island vacation. But after a few of the city’s best mojitos and a sampling of malanga fritters, perfectly steamed red snapper, or savory curried goat, you and Tony won’t mind a bit. Tap Tap casts a spell on newcomers and regulars who find themselves swept away by the authentic flavors and the intoxicating island vibe.
JimmyZ Kitchen (1542 Alton Road, South Beach): Everyone in Miami has a favorite Cuban restaurant that recreates childhood dishes just like Mami used to make. JimmyZ Kitchen takes pride of place with Miami’s much smaller Puerto Rican population because Chef Jimmy makes the Best Mofongo in Town. Period. Tucked away in a tawdry strip shopping mall on the west side of the city, this place is blink-and-you-missed-it tiny. So just don’t blink. The prized and labor-intensive Afro-Boricua specialty is served on “Mofongo Fridays.” It’s crafted from fried green plantains, lots and lots of garlic, olive oil, and crispy pork cracklings that are pounded together and served with a red sauce that is Jimmy’s top secret ingredient (and a known cure for even the most formidable hangover). That’s why it is only served on weekends and why Tony Bourdain will thank you for such a well-considered recommendation .